Despite a bad record, the Steelers are still a team with talent as the Buffalo Bills were reminded after a sound defeat, 23 to 10. After a great overall performance against the Chiefs, the Bills took a step back on both offense and defense looking sluggish at times. Unfortunately, they still have a game at home (against the Jets) before they can rest up with a bye week and also get E.J. Manuel up to par following his injury.
Rushing Offense: C-
Against a poor run D, the Bills managed just 95 yards on the day total. The Steelers get credit for slowing down the run early, causing Marrone to pass the ball more in the game. Jackson finished stronger with 12 carries for 55 yards (4.6 avg), but C.J. struggled with 8 touches for 23 yards (2.9 avg). Thank you E.J. for sliding or going out when running. The Bills need to find a way to push the extra yard in 3rd and short/red zone opportunities as they converted just 3 of 14 third downs and failed to punch in the end zone until the last minute of the game.
Passing Offense: F
Contrary to some expectations, I did not think E.J. would do well this game. Steeler DC Dick Lebeau is great against rookie QBs plus E.J.’s development has now been halted twice by injury. E.J. finished with just 22/39 completed passes for 155 yards, a pick and a TD. The TD to rookie TE Chris Gragg should not have counted as he was quite offsides (sorry). Johnson led the team with 3 catches for 48 yards, but Robert Woods was missed. Also, in need of work were accurate deep ball to the Bills speedsters. Pass blocking was adequate, but three sacks were given up.
Run Defense: D+
Despite keeping rookie RB Bell to just 22 carries for 57 yards (2.6 avg) and a TD, there were times in which the Steelers were seemingly running at will especially in the first half. The Steelers almost doubled their season average rushing with 136 rushing yards total. The Bills need to finish their tackles and mind the gap. Kiko Alonso led the team with 10 tackles.
Pass Defense: B
The smaller, but quicker Antonio Brown had a field day against Stephon Gilmore finishing with 6 catches for 104 yards. Big Ben was good when he had to be completing 18 of 30 passes for 204 yards, a TD, but also threw a pick to Jairus Byrd (returned 50 yards). The Bills also finished with 4 sacks (1 each by Dareus and Kyle Williams, and 2 by Jerry Hughes).
Special Teams: F
Obviously punting the ball 9 times (ugh) you are bound to give up a big return, but they instead gave up two to Antonio Brown; one went 24 yards and later one for 50 yards. Moorman finished with a 36.9 yard avg on those punts including 3 inside the 20. Crossman has to do better on defending against returns as this has been a problem all year. The bright side is that Carpenter made his only field goal attempt from 20 yards out.
It was not a pretty game. Marrone was right to start E.J., but he has to figure out a way to move the ball consistently whether it be passing or running. Defensively, the Bills also have to be more consistent with stopping drives early and not get picked apart.